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Fast fashion children’s clothes are harming our environment and our kids.

thrown out clothes amongst landfill.

With their rapidly growing bodies, children can go through clothes quicker than any shopaholic.

Every year, 85% of textiles bought in Australia ends up in landfill. A key contributor? Children’s clothing.

A majority of these clothes are made in a process called Fast Fashion, the rapid production of garments by mass-market retailers.

Although affordable, this process is why Australians are consuming 400% more than they were two decades ago.Fast Fashion poses numerous problems to the natural environment and those living within, mainly because of the materials used in development.

Synthetic fabrics  such as polyester, nylon and acrylic are commonly used to make children’s clothes. These materials take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade and release microplastic fibres into the ocean when washed.

Marine animals consume these plastics and inevitably pass it up the food chain until the cycle leads back to us, effecting our bodies.

Currently, there are 5.25 trillion pieces of microplastics littering the ocean – more than all the stars in the galaxy!

Because of the cheap fabric, another issue with these garments is that they break down quicker than ethical clothing and are dangerous to make. On top of poorly paid wages, the workers who create the affordable clothing are also exposed to dangerous elements.

Women working to create cheap clothes.

During production, synthetic garments are treated with multiple toxic chemicals that are not only harmful to the health of workers but also to the children who wear the garments.

Chances are that that five-dollar child’s t-shirt, actually has a much greater, untold cost.

Plus, these poisonous chemicals rapidly increase the amount of Co2 in the air. With levels already exceeding safe human operating space by 20 per cent, it poses a significant problem.

But it’s not too late for change. There are many simple adjustments one can take to prevent these issues and benefit their children.

1.  Buy Sustainable Children’s Clothes.

Unlike fast-fashion garments, eco-friendly clothes are made from better quality materials (organic cotton) and they don’t contain toxic chemicals. Instead, the fabrics are naturally made and sourced.

Below is a list of a few stores you can check out for worthy and sustainable kids’ clothes:

Click photo to find out more.
Click photo to find out more.
Click the photo to find out more.

2.  Read The Label.

A simple solution to ensure you are getting good quality and non-harmful fabrics, is to check the label for what materials are used. You should stay clear of textiles like cotton, synthetic materials and animal fur and instead opt for natural fabrics such as organic cotton, linen, hemp and recycled fibre.

3.  Buy Second-Hand Clothing.

Second hand store

Without adding to the production of garments, second-hand clothes are a great alternative to buying new clothes and they cost a fraction of the price. Additionally, they also provide a great place to recycle outgrown children’s clothes.

4.  Be Mindful of How You Wash and Dry.

The way you clean clothes can reduce water usage and the risk to us.

The average household does 400 loads of laundry every year. You can reduce energy consumption by 90 per cent by simply doing full loads and using cold water only.

A great addition to reduce the amount of microplastics released when you wash clothes is a microfiber-catching laundry ball. Washing one cotton t-shirt releases almost 2,000 microplastic fibres but the laundry ball can slash this risk.

Microplastics in the environment

 

 

 

It took all of 30 seconds to go from, “You can’t play with me,” to the older sister belting her younger brother on his back with her Barbie doll. There were many tears, a Timeout, and a forced apology, as well as a ban on all play dates for the rest of the week.

Sibling conflict and rivalry is all too familiar to many families. With arguments ending in violent outbursts, crying and an effort to separate the sparring kids, parents often wonder if their children will ever get along. While the cliches in popular culture frequently portray negative relationships between siblings, being aware of the long-term effects of this kind of behaviour is important for parents.

Recent paediatrics studies published in the United States National Library of Medicine reveals being bullied by a sibling can be just as damaging to a child’s mental and emotional health as being bullied by another child in the playground or at school. The home is meant to be a safe space for each individual member of a family. When bullying occurs there, children will feel helpless, anxious and extremely unhappy, which can manifest into more serious issues of depression and other mental illnesses as they grow older.

It is important to note that there is a difference between bullying and rivalry – bullying is more infrequent than rivalry. Sibling bullying has an element of aggression verbally and physically that rivalry does not. Violent words, manner of speech, as well as physical actions and intent are all signs of bullying. Rivalry lacks this ongoing element of aggression and nastiness and, according to Sherri Gordon of Verywell Family,

“This bullying…stays with the victim for years to come.”Sad young girl

Sibling relationships are shaped by a multitude of forces. While family dynamics and composition play a role, as do extramarital factors, every child is unique. Research indicates that siblings can be as different to one another as two completely unrelated children.

A study by Cambridge University conducted on a group of children over five years investigated the nature of sibling rivalry. It discovered siblings have an overall positive impact on each other, even if their relationship isn’t completely happy.

According to the study, mild rivalry between siblings can be beneficial to both children and will not often have long term impacts. It is when this behaviour is sustained and occurs over a lengthy period of both siblings’ childhoods that issues can arise. These negative impacts can result in long term problems such as:

  • Difficulty with relationship-building later in life (romantic and non-romantic)
  • Behavioural problems
  • Difficulty in social situations
  • Extreme competitiveness
  • Difficulty accepting criticism and being a “sore loser”

A healthy amount of rivalry can boost a number of positive elements in the younger sibling’s early development. Older children expose their younger brothers or sisters to emotionally rich language particularly when engaged in an argument or competition with the younger sibling. The Cambridge study found, that by the age of six, younger siblings could converse with their older siblings about emotions on equal footing rather than at the level of other six-year-old children.

Two children playing together

It is in the space of sibling relationships that children learn the most about conflict resolution and prevention, as well as testing their social skills both before and during their primary school years.

Michele Fry of Greatschools.org states, “It’s where children learn to cooperate and compromise – skills they carry into adulthood.” With a sibling, the boundaries and limits of social interaction which are modelled by parents can be tested and experimented. Fry explains, unlike with a school-yard friend, a sibling won’t leave their brother or sister if they get called a name or teased by their sibling. In this way, siblings continually learn from each other about how to interact with their peers.

What is important to note is that this testing of social interaction between siblings needs to be monitored by their parent – what can be seen initially as pushing the boundaries can quickly escalate into abuse if the behaviour continues. In this situation the parent should intervene to reinforce positive behaviours and mediate conflict if the children can’t do so between themselves.

 

The role of the parents

Parents have one of the biggest influences over the relationship between their children. Dr Sylvia Rimm, psychologist and director of the Family Achievement Clinic, outlines what is important for parents to know about rivalry between their children.

  1. Labelling

Referring to your children as the “sporty” child, or the “creative” or the “academic” child can cause significant problems for both children. While this may initially seem like a good way to encourage and guide children into areas they may show a natural propensity for, it can have adverse effects.

Dr Rimm states, labels reinforce differences between siblings and can encourage competitiveness for certain titles, commenting;

“When children are labelled best in a domain, they often do their best to prevent another sibling from encroaching on their domain.”

Michele Fry also highlights the negative impact on self-development that labels can cause. Children who are labelled early will often live up to these labels and be disinclined to venture into other areas. It limits their capacity for developing an identity separate to the one they have had reinforced constantly by their parents and siblings because of the label they were given at an early age.

  1. Gender, age and family dynamics

Gender, age and family dynamics are also important to consider as parents when assessing the level of sibling rivalry and encouraging positive sibling relationships. Rivalry is generally harmless and something that most siblings grow out of by the time they have reached their late teen years. Dr Rimm outlines the following instances where rivalry can escalate or cause prolonged problems for both siblings:

  • Two close-aged children of the same gender e.g. two sisters 18 months apart
  • The younger sibling following directly after a very talented oldest child
  • The “baby” of the family

Two young sisters in grass

It’s also important to remember that siblings spend more time together than they do with their peers. Growing up, living in the same household, going through shared family experiences, all contribute to siblings knowing one another in a way that peers do not. While this can be positive for relationship building into the future, it can also have a negative impact for rivalry and bullying. A sibling will know their brother or sister’s weak spots and sensitivities more than schoolyard friends might.

Professor of Applied Family Studies, Laurie Kramer, states,

“Children can take advantage of vulnerabilities and make the other one feel bad with a word.”

This kind of emotional rivalry or bullying is harder for parents to monitor but can be extremely damaging long term on self-esteem and development particularly if it occurs frequently during teenage years.

 

What are the long-term impacts?

According to Mike Bundrant, psychotherapist and co-founder of the Neuro-Linguistic Program, sibling rivalry and aggression can have the same long term as bullying by a peer. In the teenage and young adult years, it can result in a deterioration of self-esteem and sense of personal identity. This usually arises in cases where sibling rivalry takes the form of frequent humiliation or a desire to embarrass one sibling in a public setting.

Sibling rivalry can continue into adulthood and be a feature of a family relationship that never goes away. As adults, there can be competition surrounding financial and employment success, marital and familial situation, and on the successes of the sibling’s own children.

Siblings are usually the closest and most long-lasting family relationship in anyone’s life. Siblings will grow old together in a way that a parent child relationship doesn’t usually provide. If this relationship can be nurtured from a young age, siblings may have a better chance of maintaining a supportive and healthy relationship into adulthood as they create their own lives away from the family home.

Family gathering

Educational consultant and parenting coach, Chrissy Khachane, suggests the following tips for creating positive sibling relationships:

  1. Support cooperative play.
  2. Teach each child to respect the differences between one another.
  3. Talk through poor behaviour with each child to promote understanding in difficult situations.
  4. Teach your children to resolve conflict.
  5. Reinforce boundaries with private conversations.
  6. Give each child individual attention away from his/her sibling.
  7. Modelling healthy relationships by validating each child’s feelings from time to time.
  8. Teach them the difference between tattling and seeking help.
  9. Give each child their own physical space.
  10. Teach your children to recognise and label their own emotions.
  11. Family rituals and traditions are a great way to foster healthy sibling relationships.

Parents walking with children

 

Kristin Neff PhD, Associate Professor at the University of Texas and global expert on the academic study of Self Compassion, discusses the antidote to harsh self-talk and how a swathe of worldwide study is proving the benefits of befriending yourself.

Do you have a nickname for yourself? Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way writes about her inner critic she calls Nigel, “He looks down on the rest of me. Nothing is ever good enough for Nigel.” As a child I heard my mum call herself, Stupid, hyphenated with Idiot. She called me Darling, like I do with my kids.

Dr Kristin Neff, Associate Professor of Human Development and Culture at the University of Texas thinks I should start calling myself Darling instead of Stupid-Idiot; as a breadth of research indicates I could have better physical health, happier relationships, more motivation, less anxiety and depression and a stronger resilience for coping with stress and trauma.

But where would we be without Nigel?!” asks the stiff upper lip of our collective Western psyche. “People have false beliefs about Self Compassion. They think it’s going to make them weak, undermine motivation, make them complacent or self-indulgent but once you have the research it shows, well actually, it’s just the opposite. It helps people say, ‘Well, maybe I’ll give it go,’’’ says Neff, an academic pioneer of the subject who, in 2003, developed a ground-breaking research tool called The Self Compassion Scale.

Designed to evaluate trait levels of Self Compassion within an individual’s thoughts, behaviours and emotions, the scale has since been used in over 2000 studies with the concept continuing to gain mainstream interest.

What is Self Compassion?

“It’s a very simple idea,” says Neff, “It’s a common sense idea, it’s not actually radical. You just ask people to think about how they treat their friends’ struggles or a loved one and the type of things they say to help them in difficult times.”

Our self-dialogue is commonly very severe, full of admonishment and criticism which questions self-worth and often leads to feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression.

Neff has found, being harsh and critical doesn’t motivate but rather undermines motivation. She says, “It just makes sense that you’d want to encourage and support yourself and let the voice inside your head be a friendly and supportive one as opposed to a hostile aggressive one. Once people get that, they make the switch for themselves.”

Neff made the switch during her last year of Graduate School at the University of California, Berkeley. She was completing her PhD in the examination of children’s moral reasoning when she became interested in Buddhism.

It was a difficult time, as she was suffering the break-down of her first marriage and had begun questioning her prospects and self-worth.

Through Buddhism, she found relief and noticed that Self Compassion, a central construct of Buddhist Psychology, had never been examined empirically and thus began her passionate devotion both personally and professionally to the practice and study of Self Compassion.

Neff explains that you don’t have to be a Buddhist or spend hours meditating to practice Self Compassion to gain the benefits but there are three components that all need to be practised in order for the concept of Self Compassion to be complete.

The Three Components of Self Compassion

MINDFULNESS Firstly, you must be willing to acknowledge that you are going through difficulty.  Often, during hard times, people are caught up in the narrative and don’t identify their own suffering.

“We can get so lost in the struggle, the storyline, that we have no perspective, we’re trying to fix it, trying to problem solve, we’re sometimes trying to shove it under the rug, we don’t even look because it’s too hard. And, it actually doesn’t make sense to be supportive of ourselves if we don’t know we’re struggling,” explains Neff. So, the first step in practising Self Compassion is voicing what is going wrong and how that feels so we notice our own suffering.

SELF KINDNESS means responding to yourself during imperfect times with a kind, internal voice such as, ‘I know you’re feeling scared and overwhelmed right now and this is a difficult time but I’m here for you.’

Placing a hand over the part of your body that is feeling stressed, stroking your arm or giving yourself an endearing name can soothe the emotions experienced, not with the intention of overcoming them immediately, but rather responding with love and support so the problem becomes less overwhelming and easier to bear.

COMMON HUMANITY “Is what distinguishes the practice between Self Compassion and Self Pity.” By acknowledging everyone has flaws and bad experiences, it allows not only an extension of compassion to oneself but also others, leading to less feelings of isolation.

“The problem, overall, is most people know logically we are all imperfect, but emotionally, when a person makes a mistake or something difficult happens, they react as if something has gone wrong. As if this is not supposed to be happening, if it’s not perfect then something is terribly amiss, which isn’t true,” says Neff, who believes that within our inherent connectedness, “That all people struggle, all people make mistakes, everyone is imperfect,” we are able to accept and cope better with our own failings and be less critical of others.

The Best Way to Foster Self Compassion in Children

MODELLING “Is the best way to foster compassion in your children. Model it out loud. A lot of parents are really careful of what they say to their kids but what they’re modelling is, ‘What??!! I’m so stupid, I lost my car keys.’ Children pick up those messages and think, oh that’s the way you’re supposed to be,” says Neff.

MIRROR NEURONS The Mirror Neuron System is somewhat debated in the field of Neuroscience. Mirror Neurons, special brain cells, which are activated both through action and observance are said by some neuroscientists to represent, among other things, the capacity for human empathy. Others have challenged the strength of this claim. However, Neff says, “We’re designed to feel each other’s messages. A huge proportion of the brain’s real estate is evolved for feeling others’ emotions.”

Neff believes humans do this at a primeval level and thinks what happens internally is just as critical as outward behaviour, in terms of what children are capable of picking up on. “We aren’t silos,” she says, “What we cultivate inside impacts others outside.”

“Children pick up those messages and think, oh that’s the way you’re supposed to be,” says Neff.

SELFISH COMPASSION, Neff believes, is of benefit to our children She explains, a lot of parents think, “‘Oh it’s selfish, I shouldn’t be focussing on myself,’ But what I tell them is, ‘Who do you want your children to interact with, someone who’s full of compassion, kindness and calm, so they get that through their mirror neurons? Or do you want them to interact with someone who’s frustrated and angry?

“My son’s autistic and I talk a lot about him and what a huge difference we’ve made. If he was in a space where he was really anxious and I felt really frustrated and anxious myself, I wouldn’t even say anything but he would ramp up, he would feel my tension. If then, I could just say (and I don’t say it out loud in this case, just to myself), ‘You know, this is really hard for me, I’m feeling really overwhelmed and I just don’t know what to do.’

“I then try to be kind supportive and say (to myself), ‘It’s Okay. I’m here for you.’ As soon as I’d changed my internal mind-state he would almost always calm down. So, those messages were received. That’s why I think Self Compassion is one of the biggest gifts we can give children. But we have to be willing to say that it’s hard to be a parent, it is hard, not always, it’s also joyous, but sometimes it’s really hard.”

“So, it’s at those worst of times,” says Neff, “That if we can acknowledge the pain and just give ourselves kindness and support, then the pain won’t overwhelm us. It’ll be more temperate, it won’t last as long, and then we actually learn to cultivate calm, kindness and connectedness in the midst of the worst of times and it helps everyone, yourself and your kids. ”

“Self Compassion is common sense, you know, but for some reason our culture doesn’t encourage it.”

Self Compassion vs Self Esteem

Western Culture has become reliant on Self Esteem gauging self-worth. Boosting a child’s Self Esteem requires the child be special or above average, placing others below them. The hierarchal demands of high Self Esteem create a risky, cut-throat validation system which fluctuates at the mercy of achievement. Self Compassion, on the other hand, shows up amid failure and encompasses compassion for others, who also fail, which provides a more constant guard of self-worth, leading to better outcomes for overall wellbeing.

High Self Esteem can also lead to an overestimation of one’s abilities and reduce the motivation to improve. A 2012 study conducted at University of California, Berkeley, involved students sitting a difficult test they were designed to fail. Two groups were formed, the first being told not to feel alone as others had also found the test hard and they’d do better next time. The second group was told not to worry because they’d got into Berkeley and so, must be really smart. Students were then provided notes with unlimited time to study before taking a second test. Students from the first group, who were encouraged to be Self Compassionate, spent more time studying than the group who had been boosted and were more realistic about what was required to improve.

“You don’t want to hate yourself, you want good Self Esteem, but we can’t always get it right, we can’t always be the better than others. Be a compassionate mess instead,” says Neff. 

RESOURCES Kristin Neff shares many free resources on her website selfcompassion.org and has developed an 8-week program to teach Self Compassion skills with colleague Chris Germer. She has also published a book, Self-Compassion.

Thousands of Australian families struggle to make ends meet as the costs of childcare continue to rise. Following a surge in demand for early childhood centres in the past five years, Australia now faces an oversupply of childcare centres, which is much worse than it sounds.

Australia now faces an oversupply of childcare centres, which is much worse than it sounds

What is the problem?

In the past five years, Australia experienced a significant increase in demand for early childhood education. Consequently, more childcare centres have begun surfacing across the country to get their slice of the pre-school pie.

According to a report by the Department of Education, vacancies in Australian childcare centres in 2018 has jumped by almost 48,000 places in three years.

There is now an oversupply of childcare facilities for the current demand resulting in high numbers of vacancies which contributes to financial losses to the childcare company and ultimately, to parents. In 2018, it costs an average of $140 a day to send a child to childcare, with prices rising to $180 a day in capital cities.

The national vice-president of ACA Nesha Hutchinson says, “There’s no denying the fact that prices have increased over the last 10 years, and over the last five years significantly”.

So, why is Australian childcare so expensive?

There are two primary reasons why the price of childcare in Australia is so high. One reason is the new regulations under the National Quality Framework (NQF)

To meet the NQF requirement, a childcare centre must employ a sufficient number of staff to comply with staff-to-child ratios, which for two and three-year-olds requires one staff member to five children.

The second reason for the unexpected upward pressure on childcare prices is lease costs. A childcare facility’s lease is tied to the number of spaces available at licensed centres, rather than the number of children attending. This means that vacancies increase the cost of childcare to a parent as the centre needs to pay off their lease based on classes with full enrollment.

According to the Victorian president of the Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) Paul Mondo, lease costs are averaged between $2,500 and $4,000 per childcare place. For example, if a childcare centre has 50 spaces available across the age groups, the centre could face a minimum of $125,000 a year in lease costs, excluding wages, utility bills and food costs.

Family researcher and author Dr Stacey Fox says, “Australian families spend about 35% of their private income on pre-school programs in Australia”.

Where is the money going?

The exorbitant lease costs childcare centres are charged soaks up a large amount of the total income available to childcare centre, while staff wages are put on the backburner.

Ben Phillips, a principal researcher at the ANU’s Centre for Social Research and Methods says, “typical (childcare) wages would be between $40,000 and $50,000 (per annum)”.

Childcare prices have skyrocketed while staff wages remain below the national average, presenting little opportunity for career progression. Something has to change to allow for the affordability of childcare to all families.

Read next week’s segment of The Childcare Chronicles to see what the major political parties have proposed for the future of Australian childcare and how it will affect Australia’s parents.

 

Children all around the world left the classroom to take to the streets in the School Strike for Climate, despite receiving criticism from teachers, parents and even our top politicians. So, why did our kids risk punishment to take action for the environment?

We recently saw school children around the world united in one common goal: save our planet. In over 112 countries, kids skipped school on Friday March 15 to take to the streets in the School Strike for Climate, demanding governments take action on an issue that will affect the course of their futures.

Many teachers, parents and politicians raised objection, insisting that the children stay in school instead. Prime Minister Scott Morrison told parliament, “We do not support our schools being turned into parliaments… what we want is more learning in schools and less activism.”

Despite drawing criticism, the school strike did make people take notice of the issue in a way that hasn’t before and forced many to beg the question: why are the kids coming together to take action on climate change?

Many teachers, parents and politicians raised objection, insisting that the children stay in school instead.

It was Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden who inspired the more than 1.4 million young people to campaign on climate action this month. Her solo protest outside Swedish parliament last August is what prompted the global movement. “We proved that it does matter what you do and that no one is too small to make a difference,” Thunberg says.

Citing a belief in equality and climate justice as their reason to skip school, those who took part in the march called for a dramatic reduction in greenhouse emissions from their respective countries.

“We proved that it does matter what you do and that no one is too small to make a difference”

Young people, it seems, are the ones taking to the streets due to the lack of action from world leaders. Many, like Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, are under the impression that the adults have left this environmental mess for the children to clean up. With a belief that the press and politicians seem to be ignoring the issue, the youth are taking action into their own hands.

Young people, it seems, are the ones taking to the streets due to the lack of action from world leaders.

Whether you agree with the actions of the climate strike or not, one thing is undeniably clear. The united action around the globe reveals the solidarity of young people that are concerned about the environment. If a united strike such as this created as much conversation and debate as it did, then perhaps the time has come to listen to the kids and start doing something to act when it comes to the future of our planet.